Last year saw a number of proposals for change which affect those working with children:
- In May 2011, Professor Munro published her final review into the child protection system (see our briefing Professor Munro’s report on child protection)
- In November 2011, the Family Justice Review was published (see our briefing Family Justice Review )
So, what has happened since?
In July 2011, the Government responded to Munro’s recommendations. Then in May 2012, Munro published an update on the implementation of her review. Munro highlighted that the Government needs to encourage better understanding between services as reforms take place in health and policing
Key changes that have already been made include:
- The removal of fixed assessment timescales. This has encouraged better, more thoughtful working practices, and better and clearer consideration of priorities
- Ofsted have revised their child protection inspection framework. It now focuses on the impact and effectiveness of help and protection for children, young people and their families
- The Government has taken steps to appoint a Chief Social Worker and local authorities are now starting to recruit Principal Social Workers to their teams
However, we are still waiting for the promised reduction in statutory guidance. This was to provide more scope for professional and local autonomy. The consultation on revisions to Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010 closed on 4 September 2012. The Government is proposing splitting the statutory guidance into three separate and much shorter documents:
- Working Together to Safeguard Children (2012): outlining what is expected of organisations responsible for safeguarding children, individually and jointly
- Managing Individual Cases: a framework for the assessment of children in need
- Statutory Guidance on Learning and Improvement: setting out proposed new arrangements for serious case reviews (SCRs) and child death reviews
Family Justice Review
On 19 June 2012, the Government published its response to the Family Justice Review and accepted the majority of the review’s recommendations. The plans are intended to help strengthen parenting, reduce the time it takes cases to progress through the courts and simplify the family justice system.
Changes since the Family Justice Review include:
- The creation of a Family Business Authority focused on delivering reform to improve family court performance
- Appointing Mr Justice Ryder to the role of judge in charge of modernisation
- Commitment to a six month limit of the duration of public law cases
- A two third increase in funding for mediation in private law cases
- Plans to establish a Family Justice Board
On 31 July 2012, Mr Justice Ryder published a final report on judicial proposals for the modernisation of family justice. He said that changes will be made in two phases:
- By the end of 2013, putting in place structures and "leadership and management principles"
- From 2013-2014, judicial training and preparation for the implementation of the Children and Families Bill
The Government has confirmed that plans for changes in legislation are also underway.
Change is continuing to take place after the reviews of last year. This will have implications for everyone working with children, including health professionals. It is hoped that the desired improvements can be achieved to ensure better outcomes for children.